The United Nations General Assembly has elected 47 nations to the new UN Human Rights Council, which was created in March to replace the discredited UN Human Rights Commission.
The United Nations is making attempts at reform
Germany was one of the first countries to submit its application to be a part of the new body, and was among the first to be elected on Tuesday, receiving more votes than any other Western country.
"It is a position that many respect, especially those reviewing our candidacy and deciding whether we should be a member," said Günther Nooke, the country's human rights representative, before voting started. "People have different opinions about which countries should be members."
German human rights representative Günter Nooke wanted his country on the Council
Should nations with poor human rights records be members?
While some observers were concerned that countries with poor human rights records received seats on the council -- China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia were among the nations elected -- others said integrating them into the process would promote human rights where they are lacking.
"Countries such as China, which are incredibly important for developments across the globe, must be involved in this new body overseeing human rights," Christoph Strässer, the German Social Democratic Party spokesman for human rights, told DW-RADIO. "In fact, I hope they become involved enough so that we actually see progress in the area of human rights in these countries."
The United States has not applied for membership to the Council and was against its creation, claiming that it would just repeat the mistakes of the former Human Rights Commission. The absence of the US could be a source of future tension, according to Strässer.
"It's a pity the US has not applied; I think it should be a member," he said. "But I hope it will at least contribute to the development of the body."
Once the initial members have been elected, they will meet for the first time in June to discuss their agenda.
Seats allocated by region
The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in March for new human rights body
There were 47 seats to be had on the Council and 64 countries vying for them. Election is by secret ballot and candidates must receive at least 96 votes to gain a seat -- an absolute majority of the General Assembly's 191 members. Germany received 154 votes.
The seats are allocated by region, with 13 reserved for Africa, 13 for Asia, six for Eastern Europe, eight for Latin America and the Caribbean and seven for the regional grouping known as "Western European and other states," which includes, among others, the United States, Canada and Israel.
The six other slots designated to Western Europe and other states were allotted to Britain, Canada, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Time had come for a change
Manuel Rodriguez Cuadros, Chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission until June 16, said the creation of the new council was essential.
"The Human Rights Commission eventually became paralyzed and could not longer act," he told DW-WORLD.DE. "It had become an instrument for various countries seeking to pursue their foreign policies, which eventually damaged the Commission's reputation.
"We realized that this kind of an organization needs more power," Rodriquez Cuadros added. "We also agreed that the UN must focus much more intensely on defending and protecting human rights in this day and age."